PMP® Exam Prep

Page 1 of Your Brain Dump -- The Process Matrix (first Layer of six)


The Process Matrix (Page 1 of Your Brain Dump)


The Skeletal Foundation

The process matrix can be found on page 61 of The PMBOK® Guide.  It consists of 47 processes organized in a matrix of 5 columns by 10 rows.  The columns are called process groups, the rows are called knowledge areas.

Each horizontal slice — knowledge area — is a conceptual slice of the PMI framework for project management, and should be studied as a conceptual chunk.

The matrix of 47 processes will be the skeleton that gives structure and context to everything else you study as you prepare for the PMP exam.

It is important to memorize this matrix thoroughly and early on in your study cycle, to support your other study efforts.


Rote Memorization

This will be brute force rote memorization — there is just no way around it.  From a blank piece of paper you want to get to the point where you can write down all 47 processes in their correct positions within the matrix with 100% confidence and 100% accuracy.

Don’t prepare a template with spacing that hints at how many processes go where.  Use a completely blank piece of paper, and work row by row, writing out the processes within each row, in order, in each process group from left to right.


'Kill A Few Trees'

It will take days or weeks and many pieces of paper to get where you need to be.  Sorry to be environmentally incorrect here, but paper is cheep.  Do this work on paper and use up a lot of paper -- I mean, buy some pads of lined paper and really 'kill a few trees'.  You will build muscle memory that helps with retention.  At first, you might just focus on one row at a time, and practice it over and over until you have it, and then build on that, adding rows gradually.

Once you are solid with the matrix, maintain that by practicing it at least once a day every day, right up until your test date.  Check the book:  you don’t want to practice something that has an error in it.


Brain Dump as Security Blanket

During your actual PMP exam you will write out the process matrix as page one of your two page brain dump at the very beginning of the exam while you are still fresh.  Then, several hours into the exam, when you are fatigued, you will be able to consult with your brain dump to validate your memory of key foundational elements.  The brain dump will be your 'security blanket' during the PMP exam.


Critical Basic Training

Students who fail to do this memorization of the process matrix don’t progress as well in their other studies and don’t prepare effectively for the PMP exam unless and until they circle around and get this memorization done.



Rote memorization isn’t fun or intellectually satisfying, but sometimes it just needs to be done.  This is one of those times.  There is lots of other material you will be studying for true conceptual understanding, and the solid skeletal structure you build through this memorization will make that material feel integrated and comprehensible.